Rather than using a VCR or PVR to record television programmes, I use a PC running Windows 7 Media Centre. I much prefer it to using a dedicated unit. Partly because I find Media Centre much easier to use than the interface on any other similar device. Partly because I can access recordings via my LAN, and thus watch stuff in my office which has been recording in the living room. And partly because of the wonderful Remote Potato utility, which allows me to schedule recordings remotely, via the web, from wherever I happen to be.
My TV tuner is a DVB-T device. Also known as digital terrestrial television or, in the UK where I live, by the friendlier name of Freeview. And not only do I have access to scores of TV channels, but there's also lots of radio stations too. So with my setup, I can record not only TV programmes but also radio.
The only problem with Windows Media Centre is that it records in a non-standard, proprietary format. Whether you record TV or radio, everything ends up as a .WTV file. There are very few applications that can handle these files, except for Windows's own media player. Thankfully, right-clicking a .WTV file in Windows 7 offers the opportunity to convert it to .DVR-MS format instead, as used by Media Centre under XP and Vista.
Which brings me to the specific problem that I recently encountered. Having recorded some radio programmes on my Media Centre kit, I wanted to convert them to standard MP3 files so that I could listen to them on my audio player during an upcoming train journey. And I found just the tool I needed.
There's a superb collection of audio and video conversion tools at www.dvdvideosoft.com. There are tools to convert just about everything you could possibly want. Including DVR-MS to MP3. So I was happy. In just a minute or so, the program converted 138 MB of DVR-MS into 25 MB of MP3. I can now schedule radio recordings on my Media Centre machine, and then copy them as MP3 files to my phone so that I can listen to them on the train.
I'm at a loss to explain how, and why, dvdvideosoft can afford to give away so much software for free. Note, though, that the installer wants you to install their internet toolbar (you can say no if you wish). Which, I guess, answers my question.
Give www.dvdvideosoft.com a try. You can download each utility individually (they're about 10 MB each), or a 40 MB download gives you the entire set, known as Free Studio.
Editor's Advisory Note: In addition to the toolbar, DVDVideoSoft products are now bundled with OpenCandy. See this article for more information.
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